The Bikecast Episode #41. Election Special: The Left that Outflanks the Left, and the Teaparty

I can sense the coming electoral event in the air around me! The people of a right’ist persuasion whom I know or whose blogs I read are also anti-statists and shall not be voting in November. Most of this podcast is an analysis of the pre-election noise coming from the the left: their attempt to grapple with the nature of the Tea Party, and their anger at the progressive “wing” of the movement that keeps insisting that the democrat controlled government behave in some small, distinguishable way, differently than the Bush regime.

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Very few people I know demonstrate any compelling belief that voting has any significance. Statistically, of course, it doesn’t. Most voters in my peer group are “defensive voters” or are surrounded by people who treat voting as a moral good (and not voting as irresponsible). But very few people demonstrate even the belief that one political figure or political party is drastically, or even noticeably, different than another.

Those that do have a clear grasp of the talking points: Yes, the current regime has increased the size and scope of the war on terror. Yes, the Iraq withdrawal is meaningless. Yes, Bush era policies have been maintained if not furthered in almost every case. Yes, covert operations, assassinations, clandestine and unconventional military operations are expanding rapidly. Yes, the gap between the rich and the poor is the largest it’s ever been. Yes, corporate profits are booming while the recession looks to continue indefinitely for the working class. Yes, Health Care Reform is crafted by the medical and insurance industries for a massive transfer of wealth to those industries[1].

Yes, Iran is still being routinely threatened. Yes, the spectre of Internet censorship is greater than ever before . Yes, the political advancement of homosexual equality has been abandoned.

Yes, the war on drugs is at full throttle.

“But it would have been so much worse if the republicans were in charge.” Honestly, that’s all that’s left in the arsenal of leftist authoritarian “reasoning.”

Though counter-factuals can only be argued using reason, I am fairly convinced that, in fact, the opposite is true. At least when the sociopaths that the left recognized as sociopaths were in power, there was some noise protesting the security state, the warfare state, the torture regime, the secret prisons etc. Now, though I’m sure the hardcore is still out there fighting the good[2] fight, the rank-and-file leftists are silent as church mice. Little atheist church mice. It’s difficult to claim that there are any meaningful limits to executive power, but if there are, they limit leftist regimes only when that regimes pushes left and limit rightist regimes only to the right[3].

This provides a nice segue into one of the pieces I talk about in the bikecast.
It addresses the role of the remaining progressives (Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher) who are sticking by their positions[4] even though they are hopelessly to the left of the center-right regime currently in power.

Prediction: expect to see alot of (continued) in-fighting between the cheerleader democrats who will blink at nothing short of encampment and extermination of all arabs and the political right, and those few outliers (mentioned above and those like them) who will probably all be anarchists in an election cycle or two.

I also talk a little about Matt Taibbi’s Tea party analysis. The article is worth reading. I think it’s interesting that, in a couple spots, Taibbi sounds like he’s given up on the political process:

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will “take our country back” from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don’t realize is, there’s a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change.

Prediction (appropriated from Matt Taibbi’s article): There’s bound to be some pretty substantial disillusionment on the margins of the “Tea partiers” after the current batch of “revolutionary” politicians is entirely coopted or they fall to democrats leading, inevitably, to a right-wing invocation the Nader fallacy–blaming the third party for the failure of the preferred establishment candidate. Also, it will mint a whole new batch of anarchists.

  1. [1] As predicted, insurance companies are simply leaving markets where regulation would endanger profits. Recently (09/23/2010) the inability to refuse children with pre-existing conditions provision of the HCR bill kicked in, and Blue Cross and Aetna simply stopped offering child-insurance. Pretty predictable really. Oh, and all the rest of it, I’m willing to wager, is similarly filled with loopholes and escape hatches–except the part where everyone is forced to buy insurance.
  2. [2] but futile
  3. [3] I mistakenly reversed this in the podcast.
  4. [4] anti-war, anti-torture, anti-assassination . . . pro-human, I guess is a good summation.
  1. I don’t think note 1 is written from a perspective that understands insurance companies very well. There isn’t a single market in America where they cannot profit mightily. Public moves like “we’re leaving your state because your regulations hurt our business” are just political gamesmanship to an insurance company. They are not a reflection of long-term shifts in insurance company business.

    Insurers work on a much longer-term schedule than politicians and the average American. They have to. The nature of their business is predicting the future about the risks they accept. The ones engaged in health and life insurance coverage look furthest into the future.

    In a past life I was an insurance regulatory attorney. It’s a very tiny niche of law practice. Every regulatory lawyer around the USA who is halfway competent in the area of law knows every other one, at least indirectly.

    In that role I served one of the USA’s largest insurers on multi-state surveys of laws and regulations for lines of insurance and products/niches within those lines, for the purpose of assessing whether an insurer wishes to write business in any given state where it’s presently not doing so. The point of these surveys was to compare regulatory climates in the 50 states.

    Insurers use the regulatory approach of any given state as a baseline from which to price their business in that state. If a state’s regulatory climate is harsh, the insurer works behind the scenes with regulatory staff to get favorable treatment, and sometimes also engages in lobbying. If necessary the lobbying extends to making public statements about threatening to leave a state’s market, or being hesitant about entering a state’s market, due to the state’s “harsh regulatory climate, which is bad for business.”

    But any insurer knows how to price coverage in order to make a buck. It’s not hard.

  2. I expanded on the above comment here:

    Probably worth reading if you take the above comment seriously, because in the above comment I was a bit overgeneral in my haste to try to say too many things in a few words.

    • You’re correct, I don’t understand insurance companies very well–I’m definitely not crying any tears for them. For all the reasons you mention, they can work in and around almost any regulatory framework to make giant stacks of cash. The point I was trying to make goes to your bullet:

      One of the main things that will cause an insurer to not want to do business in a state is that the state’s market of risk in the line or niche of business is too costly. For example, a company may not want to underwrite small business package coverage in a state where 99% of small businesses fail within 3 years.

      I was imagining, perhaps incorrectly, that it may become prohibitively expensive to offer insurance to children if it actually were the case that insurers couldn’t refuse a patient based on pre-existing conditions. That was certainly an assumption of the analysis I linked to. I have no doubt that an absurdly large number of loopholes and exemptions exist. I could also be convinced that the companies in question were perhaps simply signalling that they expect unimpeded access to these loopholes.

      Anyhow, thanks for the insight and correction.

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